|Starring:||Denzel Washington, Paula Patton, James Caviezel, Val Kilmer, Adam Goldberg|
When will Hollywood stop using science fiction merely as a device to tell just another average action chase story? Probably never, I would guess. Tony Scott’s latest $80 million “Déjà Vu” uses the concept of an intra-universe wormhole to give us an endless series of car chases and crashes. It is a film that cruises on a goofy dumb energy and trades heavily on the charisma of its star. Absent Washington’s presence, no one would even bother to see this movie. Certainly no one would take it the least bit seriously.
Here’s the story: A river boat in New Orleans loaded with US sailors, women, and children, is blown up in what appears to be a terrorist attack. ATF agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) arrives on the scene and begins to brilliantly investigate. He quickly finds pieces of the bomb, and makes his presence known to the law enforcement types who seem to be all thumbs. Carlin is cocky and intelligent, but like most all characters played by Washington a little off track emotionally. But when Carlin gets a call about a woman found burned and dead near the bomb site at a time earlier than the explosion, he decides to take his investigation in that direction. After some impressive detective work, Carlin reports his findings to the FBI who decide to bring the brilliant Carlin into their fold.
Now, up to this point, “Déjà Vu” is pretty good, but once Carlin becomes privy to the FBI’s plans, things get dumb. The Bureau’s team is lead by Agent Pryzwarra (Val Kilmer) and a scientist just named “Denny,” played by ultra cool Adam Goldberg (yes, “The Hebrew Hammer” himself). Denny and his hip young technical clique have constructed near the bomb site a large device that appears to take all the available video surveillance amazingly synthesizing such data into one continuous video stream. A killer computer of some sort reconstructs moving images into one stream complete with audio to boot. Sound farfetched? Well, that’s because it is, something even more farfetched is afoot, it has to do with that wormhole theory I mentioned earlier.
Anyway, after a million lines of completely indecipherable dialogue explaining one fictitious process, Carlin, who comes in and takes over, figures out that the first story is some kind of cover, and that’s when things get really messy. Here’s where you might want to pop a few Tylenols and even a couple Dramamines while your at it. Instead of taking an intriguing science fiction premise and building upon it credibly, “Déjà Vu” uses this fantastical platform as a staging ground for an endless series of completely pointless car chases and even more ridiculous car crashes that hardly justify the end result.
I’ll give you an example, apparently in order to create the video stream, the computer must have video of the area that is being inspected. So, a video rig with a camera is utilized to help in the video reconstruction. Of course, the explanation for this is very quick and very thin and ultimately makes little sense. In one scene, Carlin takes off in a Hummer with the video rig and because he thinks he must wear it, has a devil of a time wearing the rig while driving. This causes him to run into most anything in his path creating a terrible set of car accidents involving innocent bystanders. When he asks the FBI agents by telephone to call in the paramedics, I chuckled because the filmmakers realize how stupid the entire chase is and are trying to soften the blow. But nevertheless, Carlin forges on driving like a mad man until he arrives at his destination, removes the rig and merely holds it by his waist while continuing to send video. I thought, wow, wouldn’t it have made sense to never put on the rig to begin with?
adly, Tony Scott, whose work I’ve admired, takes producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s lead with “Déjà Vu” and, apparently, believes that most audiences don’t care about science or believability and just want to see things blow up and Denzel Washington use horse-sense to figure out what the MIT boys cannot. Oh, yeah, and he must get the girl too. This kind of shameless filmmaking ought to be banned or chalked up as a relic of the 1980s.
And sadder still is that a film as dumb as this one serves only to further erode Washington’s star radiance. At almost 52 years old, Denzel needs to move onto to projects that are worthy of his talents. Yes, he makes a great action hero, but he’s won two Oscars! Hopefully, his upcoming role as Frank Lucas in the other Scott’s film “American Gangster” will make up for this misstep.
But earlier I told you that “Déjà Vu” had a dumb even goofy energy. The audience I saw it with cheered at one point and seemed to like what they saw. I walked out thinking that such a reaction is exactly what was intended—mindless entertainment for people who spend their day thinking and don’t want to continue that in the darken theater on a relaxing weekend. For me, “Déjà Vu” is a film that’s worth forgetting.